Russia's Foreign Ministry has warned Washington against imposing new rules on the movements of Russian diplomats in the United States, threatening that Moscow might institute similar restrictions.
The warning relayed by ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on June 23 followed news that legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate would impose Cold War-era monitoring requirements on Russian Embassy and consular employees in the United States.
The legislation, first reported by BuzzFeed News, calls for limiting Russian diplomats' travel to 80 kilometers from their post for a period of three months unless the FBI has certified in writing that all Russian diplomats followed existing reporting requirements within the prior three-month period.
BuzzFeed, citing an unnamed U.S. intelligence official, said Russian diplomats were bending existing rules, frequently notifying the State Department of travel outside a 80-kilometer radius late on Friday afternoon, impeding the ability of FBI counterintelligence units to monitor their movements.
The legislation also calls for reviving a presidentially appointed interagency group that would be tasked with tracking Russian spies, Russian-sponsored propaganda, covert operations, and other actions.
The group would be called the "Committee to Counter Active Measures by the Russian Federation to Exert Covert Influence over Peoples and Governments." A similar sounding interagency group existed during the Cold War to counter Soviet spying.
Speaking at a briefing in Moscow, Zakharova said there had been a "noticeable uptick in pressure" on employees of the Russian Embassy and consulates in the United States.
"Employees of Russian foreign agencies are regularly targets of provocation by special services, encountering obstacles and other restrictions in meeting official contacts," she said.
"If Washington indeed decides to breach existing agreements, we, of course, will respond in kind, and will impose analogous restrictions on American diplomats in Russia," she said.
The legislation, which is included in a larger bill governing U.S. intelligence policy for 2017, must be passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee before it can be voted on by the full Senate.